This article was published in the Titirangi Tatler, February 2010
A rose may smell as sweet by any other name, and despite not having a scent, Pratia angulata looks just as sweet since its recent name change to Lobelia angulata.
Widespread throughout the country, Lobelia angulata, or panakenake, has become a favourite amongst native plant growers for its distinctive looks and robust nature.
Probably it is New Zealand's most popular native ground cover. It is a plant that withstands a wide range of extremes and can flourish against competition from vigorous exotics. That can suggest it is invasive but the general consensus amongst gardeners is that it is such a low maintenance plant with such attractive properties, it can be forgiven a tendency to spread into other plants.
For a brilliant display of white flowers from early spring through to late summer, it compares well with any plant. Plus there is the bonus of another several months of red berries making it attractive to birds and gardeners. Panakenake occurs throughout New Zealand and enjoys growing in open or forested areas and will happily thrive in swamps as well as drier conditions. The home garden suits it ideally. It can be soft and thick in shade or tightly ground-hugging in harsh full sun.
Confine it to an area that has defined boundaries or let it run through the garden, either way it rewards with the prolific display of odd-shaped flowers through spring and summer. You can even use it as a no-mow lawn in low traffic areas.